Volume Five, Issue 4

My Father

Christella Burnette

My father
Was a plaid shirt
Over polka dot pants,
Brown belt, brown shoes.
As long as the belt and shoes match,
That’s all that mattered.

My father
Was boring.
Like rolled up newspaper boring.
Black and gray
But couldn’t be read.
My father couldn’t read
But told bed time stories like a gladiator
While I swallowed my own teeth.

My father
Couldn’t sing
So he would grab his guitars by the neck
And make them cry
I mean, hum.

My father
Was so unoriginal
White singers with black songs
He could make our childhood dreams
Sound like back streets,
His way or no way.

My father
Was brass knuckles and tambourines
And his pulpit was the only alter
We were allowed to worship in.

My father
Was a pastor
Which means he haphazardly
Led his sheep with a shot gun temper
Rather than a staff.
He could beat the black off me
But couldn’t instill it in me.

My father
Told me I was too dark to be his daughter
Even though
His skin was a love story with midnight.
He wanted
To water down my potency by
Adding milk to my coffee.
That’s when I realized
That black must be powerful.

My father
Was so predictable
Like the plot of a sitcom.
This is the one
Where the father abuses his power
Because control is more important than love,
Fear more important than respect;
This is where he keeps us in check,
With no balance,
Then leaves
because the black family story
Has the same

My father
Stroked his ego with his insecurities
Like a pet lion he had on a leash
But chose to ignore.
So no surprise
That it ate him up inside
Then crawled out of his face
To feed on us.

My father
Was a billboard for internal explosions
Of secret tragedies
That kept his heart
From surrendering to feeling.

My father
Was still processing
What it meant to be a man
From a man who was doing the same
And the damage
Can be traced back
But it won’t be traced forward.

My father
Met his end
When I was 13
But I buried him 5 years ago
While still trying to bury the curse.

My father
Never asked for forgiveness.
I gave it to him anyway.

Christella Burnette: “I am an emerging writer in the field of poetry. I have a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida and I teach high school English in Fort Pierce, Florida.”

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